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Book Reviews

Autumn 1997

Winter By Simon Brown. Sydney, HarperCollins, 1997. pb. $12.95 Sydney, 2034. The world is in the grip of a nuclear winter. Sydney has survived more or less unscathed, though it's a depressing place to live.

As a result, it's doing quite nicely in world trade. Democracy seems to have taken a back seat, though, and the government's Security Department employs a number of agents (read "assassins").

Harry and Ian, two former members of a security team, are ordered to find a former colleague, Marilyn, who has disappeared and, supposedly, gone "rogue". She hasn't done anything wrong, of course, but they have to find her all the same, before other security agents do. There's a lot of nasty politicking going on, meanwhile, in the higher echelons of power.

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Positives first: Mr Brown actually makes us feel sympathy for a bunch of assassins! They are so very weary and sickened by what they have had to do in the past. it's very atmospheric. The SF premise is interesting; I wouldn't mind reading another novel in this universe, provided it concentrated on the SF. It's a reasonable thriller.

The problem is, there are really two stories and neither really gets a go. There's nothing wrong with combining SF and the thriller genre, provided the SF is the REASON for the thriller. That's been done very successfully, most notably by Ben Bova. But you could rewrite the thriller part of this, set in the present, without losing much. There's too much going on; I was often left confused and waiting for some explanation of an incident that never was explained. The villain had very little motivation that I could see. He was just a villain.

I'd love to see this writer do a straight thriller or go back to this universe for a straight SF tale. There was one hint in the story that the nuclear winter was ending sooner than expected - that might make a story in itself. This writer's space opera Privateer was highly entertaining and this one had a lot of good elements in it. Here's hoping the next will be better than both!

Wish I could give Winter a glowing review … but I'm afraid that, despite some good things, I wasn't as impressed with it as I was with Privateer.He seems to be trying to do a Bladerunner and it doesn't work. Not for me, anyway.

Sue Bursztynski

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